It was an exciting afternoon last Tuesday at Warner Bros., where animation creators, celebrities and fans gathered to witness the unveiling of the brand new Warner Bros. Animation mural in Burbank, California. The event was open to the public and attended by over five hundred Burbank residents and Warner Bros. employees, along with their families. The mural, which faces the corner of Olive and Pass, has been a staple of the studio for over fifteen years but has never been updated until now. CBR News attended the event to get a first hand report on the festivities.
The event was held on the back-lot, underneath the mural itself. The scene resembled a carnival, with different booths set up for children including face painting and "Batman: The Brave & The Bold" character designer Lynell Forstall drawing pictures for the kids. The Batmobile from the Tim Burton Batman films was a centerpiece along with the Mystery Mobile from "Scooby Doo." Beneath the mural, which was covered by a giant white sheet, stood a stage and podium where the presentation would take place, and where Peter Roth, President of Warner Bros. Television, welcomed the excited crowd.
Warner Bros. Studios has been producing animation for almost eighty years, beginning with 1930's black and white short, "Sinkin' in the Bath Tube." Since then, the company has earned six Academy Awards, thirty-five Emmy Awards and one Peabody Award. WB's animation division includes some of the most beloved characters in cartoon history, including the Looney Tunes, Hanna-Barbara and DC Comics catalog of characters.
Roth spoke to the crowd about the importance of these characters and their representations on the mural. "Warner Bros. Animation and family of now classic Looney Tune, Hanna-Barbara and DC Comics characters have evolved to a cherished part of our culture here at Warner Bros., and the mural you are about to see represents the studio's rich heritage and brings together the past and the present from Batman, Wonder Woman and Superman to Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny and Scooby Doo among many others."
Before unveiling the mural, Roth invited actor Mario Lopez ("Saved by the Bell") to the stage to do the honors.
The previous mural, which had been a Los Angeles landmark for the last two decades, featured a reinterpretation of Mt. Rushmore. Instead of the famous Presidents, the heads were those of fan-favorite characters such as Bugs Bunny, Scooby Doo and Batman, with dozens of other WB characters on the mountain such as the Animaniacs, Pinky & The Brain, Superman and the Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbara favorites.
Finally, it was time for what we had all come to see, so Lopez gave the sign to release the curtain and show the mural to the public. There was a loud gasp from the crowd as the curtain dropped and they laid their eyes upon the mural. Instead of Mt. Rushmore, the motif had been changed to, fittingly, the Hall Of Justice. Running out of the Hall on the left are Cyborg, Robin and Starfire from "Teen Titans." In the middle of the piece are Batman, Aquaman and Blue Beetle from "Batman: The Brave & The Bold." The far right has Green Lantern (Hal Jordan), Superman and Wonder Woman all representing their appearances in the Direct-to-DVDs, "Green Lantern: First Flight," "Superman: Doomsday" and "Wonder Woman," respectively.
At the bottom, painted in a special kind of paint that you can only see under black-lights that will be on at night, are villains from "Batman: The Animated Series." The villains include Harley Quinn, Joker, Two-Face, Catwoman, Clayface and Mr. Freeze.
Looking down on the DC heroes are the most popular of the Looney Tunes characters: Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Sylvester & Tweety Bird, as well as everyone's favorite canine detective, Scooby-Doo.
All of the DC characters were made to look like the animated shows or films that they were representing, and were designed by their original creators, who were on hand for the event including Bruce Timm ("Batman: The Animate Series," "Green Lantern: First Flight), James Tucker ("Batman: The Brave & The Bold") and Glen Murakami ("Teen Titans").
In the time since the original mural was made, Warner Bros. Animation has changed and the bulk of their product now heavily relies on the DC Comics characters and trademarks. With popular shows in recent history such as "Teen Titans" and "Justice League," the current "Batman: The Brave & The Bold" series and DC's new line of direct-to-DVD features, WB has created a powerful brand that is definitely reflected in the new mural.
"Warner Bros. chose which characters were going to go where. Then we all did rough designs of the final poses and stuff," explained Timm of the process.
"We all sketched out our characters and then we had a designer pull them together, he did the arrangement and composed them," continued Tucker.
"Actually we came out here on the weekends with our paint-brushes," joked Timm.
Tucker talked about his original concern with a few of the characters from "Batman: The Brave & The Bold" being front and center in the mural. "Well, you know, it's supposed to be representing all of Warner Bros. Trying to pick and choose the brightest spots. So it's weird because Blue Beetle and Aquaman are up there from my show and I think when we came up with the billboard idea, we didn't know that they were actually going to be some of the more popular characters from the show. So it actually worked out well. Otherwise everyone would be like, 'What's Blue Beetle doing up there?' But now everyone knows who he is, pretty much."
Tucker also expressed his surprise at the popularity of his show. "I thought the fans were going to jump on us and tear us apart," explained Tucker. "But the demeanor of the show is so joyful. It's really just about having fun. You know, you got 'The Dark Knight,' enjoy that if you want something dark. This is like a piece of chocolate after a big meal. It cleanses the pallet and you can get on with your life. You know, it's entertainment."
One of the surprises on the mural was the inclusion of Green Lantern from the direct-to-DVD, "Green Lantern: First Flight," which won't even be released until this summer. But now fans can get an early look at how the character will appear in the new film. Timm talked about the concept for the new movie and what fans can expect. "It's Hal Jordan's initiation into the Green Lantern Corps and his mentor Sinestro, who nobody can, surprisingly, tell is a bad guy. Its really about Sinestro, his turn to the dark side and Hal's there to balance him out. It's weird, it's like a cop movie and 'Star Wars' put together. It's galactic and hard-boiled and kind of exciting."
Timm continued, "Weirdly enough, we had already done Hal Jordan's origin in 'Justice League: New Frontier,' but it made sense to do it again. Actually, in 'New Frontier,' we never showed him going to Oa, meeting the Guardians, being the new rookie Green Lantern and all that, so we thought that was something worth exploring."
It's been announced that after "Green Lantern: First Flight," the next release from DC and Warner Bros. Animation will be a film based on Jeph Loeb and Ed McGuinness' "Superman/Batman: Public Enemies," the first arc of the popular ongoing comic book. When asked what DC animated project will be set for release after that, Timm cryptically hinted, "It will involve multi-colored spandex."
Legendary voice-over director Andrea Romano, who has worked on every DC animated project that Warner Bros. has produced in the last twenty-years, talked about her fond memories of working with the company and some of her favorite projects. "It was early in my career when I started doing 'Animaniacs' and 'Pinky & The Brain,' so those will always be really special to me. The first Batman series, 'Batman The Animated Series,' was a dark and wonderful series. Then 'Batman Beyond,' I adored. 'Teen Titans' I was crazy about and 'Justice League.' I mean it's hard. It's like choosing your favorite child. They all have they're moments and there's not one of them that was a bad experience. That's really good.
"You know Warner Bros. has been a great home to me. I do a lot of work outside of Warner Bros. as well but Warner Bros. has been a wonderful home to me."
Romano also spoke about how she was once surprised by a celebrity she had cast in a part who was far better than she could have ever imagined. "You never know really how certain people are going to be. We cast a lot of celebrities but Tom Sizemore ('Heat,' 'Saving Private Ryan') as Metamorpho on 'Justice League' blew me away with his commitment and determination to do a good job. He worked so hard and when we were doing the ADR, which is working the picture for all the screams and noises. I said, you know we can have somebody cover that for you. He said, 'No, No, No I want to do it. Please let me try.' He was excellent, really excellent."
Also on hand was actor Diedrich Bader ("Office Space") who plays the voice of Batman on the popular "Batman: The Brave & the Bold." "It's really exciting. I can't wait to drive my son by here and show him the Batman. That'll be really cool. Of course he'll have to stay up really late to see the bad guys, driving by late at night," joked the actor.
As to why his series has caught on with fans, Bader said, "It's the quality of the show. It's a really genuinely good show. I'm really excited to be on it. I love that we're reaching deep into the lexicon of DC and getting some bad guys that nobody has either heard of or seen for a really long time, except in the comic books, so I think that's the main attraction of the show. It's very cool."
The actor also gave CBR a teaser for future episode of "The Brave and the Bold." "There's an episode coming up with Huntress and Blue Beetle. Blue Beetle is hilarious through the whole thing and Batman is more or less there for irony. I think that episode really captured the humor of the show, the fun of it and ultimately where I think we're going to go," said Bader.
Finally, one of the highlights of the night for both fans and the animators alike was an appearance by TV and Broadway icon Julie Newmar, who played Catwoman opposite Adam West on the popular late '60s Batman television series. The first actress to ever play the role of the feline villain, the nearly eighty-year-old Newmar took time to pose for pictures with fans and talked about her feelings for the role of Catwoman and the character's legacy.
"I'm so happy that there are these different interpretations of the character and that it goes on and on. It's such a choice part to play and the electricity between Batman and Catwoman was always my favorite on the original show that I did back in the '60s," said Newmar.
Photos by Mitch Haddad/Warner Bros. Television Entertainment